Holistic Wellness: Diet and Lifestyle for Wellness and Disease Management

Holistic Wellness: Diet and Lifestyle for Wellness and Disease Management

Prior to forming Fratellone Medical Associates, Dr. Fratellone was Chief of Medicine and Director of Cardiology at the Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine under the direction of the late Robert C. Atkins, M.D. Previously, he held positions as Medical Director of the Fifth Avenue Comprehensive Medical Group and Regional Director of Cardiology programs for the Ultrasound Diagnostic Schools. As a result of his development of programs and teaching in these positions, he is recognized as a forerunner in the field of echocardiography.

Leslie Danford: Can you tell us about how you started on this journey? How did you end up in this space?

Patrick Fratellone: I had always wanted to be a vet before a doctor, but my journey started from my grandparents because I was born a blue baby, and that means cyanosis. So I had a couple of heart defects, and my parents, being from Italy, never really let me see a doctor until I was a young child. And, by then, the defects were already there. I could not exercise because I would get short of breath. And they always gave me herbs, my grandparents, and so instead of taking medicine, I was taking herbs from a young age. Some of these herbs were foxglove, which is digitalis, which is made from a plant; but they gave me other herbs as well. So, when I finished medical school, I initially went into Lenox Hill Hospital near New York City. Initially, I went into infectious disease. It was the height of the AIDS epidemic. I switched fellowships and went into cardiology as appropriate. And when I finished my first medical partner with Dr. Robert Atkins of the Atkins Diet– he’s not just a diet doctor, he wrote a book called Vita-nutrient Solution, which is all about vitamins– he loved my story and I ran his center until he died. Then, I basically inherited his practice, and I’ve been practicing ever since. We had a radio show, Dr. Atkins and I, WOR, where we would talk like this. We had guests from all over the world, and one of the guests on a radio show was Andrew Weil. He was telling us on the radio that he was starting a fellowship of integrated medicine and my ears perked up. But, I couldn't leave the Atkins Center. However, after Dr. Atkins passed away, I went to study with Andrew Weil for two years. So that's how I got involved with integrative medicine. 

Leslie Danford: That sounds awesome, can you tell us more?

Patrick Fratellone: Sure; from there, I met Tieraona Low Dog, who's an MD herbalist midwife. She's in New Mexico, and she said, “Patrick, I think you should study herbs”. So then I went to another program, I studied botanical medicine with 7Song in Ithaca. So, MD, herbalists, integrated medicine, it all fit in. And then, I wind up being a beekeeper. I thought, “After learning about plants, I should really learn about bees”. So I became a beekeeper, and I've been a beekeeper for 15 years. And, I'm an AP therapist, where I use all products of a beehive to heal patients. I use bee venom, I use propolis, I use honey and royal jelly, so it just kept evolving. And then about 2015, I was asked to be a professor at one of the colleges of naturopathic medicine, and that's how I started teaching NDs. Because, when I went to medical school, there was no such program as a naturopathic medical school. 

The cases I see– people think I'm just a cardiologist, but I see so many other cases– I see a lot of autoimmune cases, a lot of cancer, because they do things differently. I try to incorporate the best of what medicine has to offer, and the best of integrated medicine. It used to be called holistic, or complementary, or alternative, but I don't like those terms. I think they give a bad connotation. I like the word integrative.

Leslie Danford: That is so interesting. And we talked to a couple of other speakers at this event about how traditional medicine is very focused on medications or treatment of illnesses. So I think it's just so unique that you have that and the other side of things, so you can kind of take the best of both worlds. So I'm really excited to dig into that. 

Patrick Fratellone: Yes, so I can do both– I have a prescription pad that I could write for conventional medicine, but I also have an arsenal of herbs and supplements that I complement it with. But really, what ties them both in, which I think conventional medicine doesn't do, is diet.

Leslie Danford: Yes, absolutely. So what are some of the major groups of people you see?

Patrick Fratellone: I might get a patient with cancer that wants to support their chemotherapy. So, I do different testing. I give them herbs, or intravenous vitamin C. Then some people say, “I want nothing to do with chemotherapy. What could you offer?” And you have to be careful with that. I like to give everyone the full plate. I think everyone should be given the opportunity of every modality available. So, they hear everything and they're like, “Wow, I could do all that and still get chemo, or maybe I don't need chemo and I can do this.” So I think everyone comes with a different problem. Most people come because they want the integrative approach– they want diets, exercise supplements, and herbs.

Leslie Danford: So what can you tell us about the causes of these diseases?

Patrick Fratellone: A big thing years ago was celiac disease. So I did a lot of celiac work, but a lot of autoimmune disease. And autoimmune disease is really around. We have a hundred and twenty autoimmune diseases, but we only have a blood test for thirty eight of them. Which means people have autoimmune disease, which is chronic. And when you think about that– when I went to medical school, which is now a long time ago, more than 30 years ago– we were taught that all diseases have a genetic component, so it's 10% environmental. Today, it's the opposite: it's 90% environmental and only 10% genetic. That means most diseases are caused by environmental toxins. The air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink– it's all there. So, when you think about that, chronic disease is really what you've been exposed to in this toxic world. So, autoimmune disease could be because you have a sensitivity of celiac, but it could mean that you also have other sensitivities, maybe to molds, maybe to some glyphosate. So I think chronic disease is where we should focus. I want to figure out, “Why do you have cancer?”

Leslie Danford: Okay, so you're doing not just the treatments, but the different holistic causes coming in as well.

Patrick Fratellone: Yeah, because I think that's important. I mean, why do we get diseases? First of all, you just have to watch a Netflix movie called Poisoned, and you'll see that you'll never eat anything in your life, right? It talks about all the Salmonella outbreaks in this country. We're supposed to have the cleanest food supply, but do we have the cleanest food supply? And not everyone could afford to go to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods, so where do they get food? And is it healthy? So maybe you should go to the Farmers Market and support your local farmer in your town. So I'm all about, the people have the answers, but we have to utilize them.

Leslie Danford: Yeah, that's interesting about the genetics environmental flip from before and now. And on the one hand, it's a little depressing to think about the environment causing us all these problems, but then on the other hand, it's at least addressable– you can change it.

Patrick Fratellone: Agreed, the environment is very toxic and we could prevent ourselves by eating better, drinking better, and taking the right supplements. And we think that’s impossible, but it is possible.

Leslie Danford: That's fascinating. So what are the top culprits in terms of when you think about your patients? And what are the top issues?

Patrick Fratellone: So the biggest toxin is mold– black mold. Then you have glyphosates, herbicides, and pesticides. Then you think about mercury from fish. Then you think about heavy metals. They just did a report three months ago that dark chocolate contains the highest concentration of lead and cadmium. That was frightening because that was my go-to sweet, and they listed in Consumer Reports top brand chocolates that had high lead. Now, why is that? It’s because they're getting the cacao from countries that don't check the metals in the soil when they grow it.

Leslie Danford: And so, the black mold– tell us about that. Where does that come from?

Patrick Fratellone: The black mold it's called Aspergillus. It's in air conditioning units. So, when you have a flood in your house or apartment and it doesn't drip down to your apartment, but you notice there's a black stain on the ceiling. That's black mold, and you can't just clean it with Clorox. You have to have someone come in and do mold remediation. It goes right through the walls and it's so invasive and it is deadly and has been linked to immunosuppression, cancers, Parkinsons, and Alzheimer's.There are actually mold doctors now in New York City that testify in courts about apartments that might be mold infested, and it's very unhealthy. People who have mold wind up getting upper respiratory tract infections. They’ll go see the urgent care, and they get antibiotics; while it doesn't go away, and they realize what's going on, they’ll check their severe sinusitis, but unless the doctors are going to check mold exposure in them, you never know if they have it.

You can actually test a person for it, and there's a lot of labs I use. Meaning, I just don't use the regular labs like Quest, I use these specialty lamps. Now the problem is integrative medicine costs a little money because you have to pay for these specialty labs. So a lot of people, if it's not coming under their insurance, they might not get it done, but this is their health.

Leslie Danford: Yeah, these things do take time to get through the system.

Leslie Danford: And you mentioned pesticides. Are those mostly coming from yards like you were mentioning?

Patrick Fratellone: So I don't spray my yard because I have bees, and that's how bees get colony collapse disorder. All the bees were dying about 18 years ago, and people said it was the cell phones or radio towers, and it turned out to be the pesticides in gardens. People  were spraying their plants with them. Then once the bee feeds on the pollen from that flower, they bring that pesticide back to the beehive. And, before you know it, the whole beehive is wiped out.

Leslie Danford: So let’s talk about mercury.

Patrick Fratellone: So mercury is prevalent–  I was born in the early 60s, so there's a lot of it. If I had fillings when I was a kid, I had silver fillings which were 50% Mercury. A lot of fish have mercury– the bigger the fish, the bigger the mercury. 

Mercury causes heart disease. It causes arrhythmia, which is a palpitation. So if you ingest a lot of sushi, you could have mercury in your body. Everything in life is moderation. If you're eating sushi every night, then you have a problem. So, once a week, not a problem. But I would never buy canned tuna fish anymore. I try to get my tuna from clean sources– some people sell tuna in a glass jar, I love it.

Leslie Danford: So, does that apply to all canned food?

Patrick Fratellone: Yeah, I think. But who could afford to buy fresh vegetables? Not the common person. Maybe they could only afford cans, and that's fine. But then you have to limit the amount of canned fruits and vegetables that you eat, because they're sitting in tin.

If you want, then go for grass-fed meat. If you want tuna from a mercury-free website, go for that if you want. So I think you have to pick and choose what's right for your pocketbook and what's healthy.

Leslie Danford: Got it. So those kind of constitute your top tips for people in terms of just general holistic health and wellness, and we didn't even talk about exercise or stress. 

Patrick Fratellone: So about exercise, 30 minutes of exercise three times a week decreases cardiovascular mortality by 38%. That's huge. So okay, do an hour and a half; then say as I get older, I realize I need more sleep. I get up at 5:00, so I'm in bed by 8:30 each night. I get a solid seven hours, eight hours of sleep– that is healthy. You also need to eat a balanced, nutritious meal. Not skipping meals, since everyone's into intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting has good benefits because it's a way to clear all dead cells out of the body, but I don’t do it every day.

Leslie Danford: So how does it work?

Patrick Fratellone: So, I stop eating at 8 pm tonight, and I won't eat until tomorrow at 11:00 am.

Leslie Danford: And what is the benefit of that?

Patrick Fratellone: It causes autophase, which is where you clear dead cells out of the body. And I'm not saying you should do it every day, but why couldn't you do it twice a week, and do it on the days that you're not exercising in the morning?

Leslie Danford: So what lifestyle changes would you recommend?

Patrick Fratellone: So, when I hear that, I think of seven lifestyle changes. The first one is dietary changes, so stopping refined sugar, that's the base thing. The second lifestyle change in my life is to exercise three days a week. But, if you do it too much, you develop the third lifestyle change, which is addictions; we all are addicts. So, exercise could be your addiction, whether good or bad. iPhones are an addiction, social media is an addiction, so is nicotine, alcohol, and chocolate. 

So if you define it as an energy thief, you'll maybe get a better perspective of the fourth lifestyle change. I encourage all my patients to do meditation, at least some form of meditation. I start with breath work. I started more than 20 years ago doing four, seven, eight, breathing. I now meditate 45 minutes every day. 

But for what I do– and I'm spending a long time with patients– I have to have a focused mind: the fifth. The fifth lifestyle change is self-esteem. Everyone needs a boost in self-esteem. So, how I tell people to boost self-esteem is to find a hobby that you want to do two days a week for 30 minutes to boost your self-esteem.

Leslie Danford: I love that because that also speaks to self-care. But some people think, “I don't have time for 30 minutes”.

Patrick Fratellone: But, I'm making it really easy, because I'm doing three days of exercise, two days of a hobby. So I'm trying to fit everything in. 

Leslie Danford: So what are the rest of the lifestyle changes you recommend?

Patrick Fratellone: The sixth lifestyle change is anger and resentment. Get rid of it. Because, studies have shown that if you hold on to anger, you will get sick.

Leslie Danford: Really? Is that because of the chemicals in your body?

Patrick Fratellone: It's just a factor– cortisol goes high, serotonin's low, you're now focusing and your dopamine’s low. So, studies have shown that you need to get rid of anger in whatever way.

So, finally, the seventh lifestyle change is your own self-love.

Leslie Danford: What is the difference between that and self-esteem?

Patrick Fratellone: The self-esteem is doing an actual hobby. Self-love is, “How could you love anyone else if you don't love yourself?” People say, “Why seven?” I'm sober 30 years. So for me, I don't want to teach a 12-step program to anyone. So I condense a 12-step program into seven steps for me as a doctor to teach my patients, and I do every one of those lifestyle changes. So it is possible, but I do condense some of them. 

But when you think about the seven lifestyle changes, we can do it, but the two biggest are the most important: exercise and diet. So those seven lifestyle changes are what I teach a person sitting across my desk after we've gone over their labs. And I try to incorporate the labs and to see if you could be picking up your vitamin D. Maybe you're happier, so you'll pick up painting.

Leslie Danford: We talked about how food is medicine, but in my mind it's even more than that. Food is health. Because medicine implies that you're just solving problems. But when you actually have the right diet and holistic wellness, it opens up your dreams. You're following your goals being there for you.

Patrick Fratellone: I call it The 4A Club. The first A is that you're aware there's a problem. The second A is that you acknowledge this is a problem. The third A is accepting it. You could do all three, but if you don't take the fourth A which is action, you'll accomplish nothing. So, whatever you desire to do, if you're aware and acknowledge it as a problem, accept it. But take the action to do it.

Leslie Danford: That makes complete sense and that could be addressing any problem, right?

Patrick Fratellone: Anything. Yeah.

Leslie Danford: You mentioned meditation, which I think is a very trendy topic, again. But talk about the benefits of that.

Patrick Fratellone: So if you take long breaths in, hold them, and let them out on a long breath out, you're actually decreasing your epinephrine or adrenaline. And you could actually feel it.

Leslie Danford: Got it.

Patrick Fratellone: So people say they can't do that. Then I'll say, “Okay. Can you sit in a park for five minutes thinking of nothing?”

So what I do with people is count on your fingers, so I tell people, “I want you to set aside 15 minutes. Time yourself with three minutes, but count on your fingers so you don't think of anything else. Deep breath in, hold for seven, out for eight.

And if you do that for three minutes, you have now meditated for three minutes. Then, what would I do for the rest of the 12 minutes? You could do anything. You want that first week to just book out 15, but only breathe the three out of 15 next week. Increase it to four the following week. It took me over 25 weeks to sit still for 15 minutes.

It's not easy. But again, if you break it down into this time, people could do it. And I have people come back and say “I tried that, I did it, and it really does work”. You have to empower the patient. And that's what I try to do.

Leslie Danford: Yes. And also, I think people in general seem to want quick fixes and a lot of what you're talking about is long-term.

Patrick Fratellone: That's why I think breaking up your lifestyle into a little bit of hobbies, a little bit of exercise, a little bit of meditation, is doable.

Leslie Danford: Yeah, that makes complete sense. Thank you so much, you've shared so many great tips and information. I learned a ton, but where can people find out more about you if they're interested?

Patrick Fratellone: So, I have a website, And, is where I make teas and tinctures, and that's where they can find them in New York City and in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Leslie Danford: Thank you so much. This was great and we look forward to working with you more here at Viaminis.

Patrick Fratellone: Good, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

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